by Olutayo Irantiola
“Daddy, Paper yes! Paper yes!” “Tise, where is the paper you are saying yes to?”
She gave me the look I have come to associate with being told that I’m not smart.
“Daddy, I said paper yes! Paper yes! I am not saying yes to a paper”
“Paper yes” “No Daddy, papper yes!!!…”
Excerpt from Facebook post- 9th September 2016
This was the above conversation between the late Professor Pius Adesanmi and his daughter, Tise, when she was introduced to paperless learning in Canada. However, here in Nigeria, e-learning, for years, have remained an albatross hanging endlessly around our neck. Taking a deep reflection on the educational system in Nigeria, one is tempted to say that the various tertiary institutions offering distance learning programmes need to be queried for not doing it right ab initio.
The outbreak of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020 had brought about many of the defects of our educational system and our modus operandi in the area of education. All these have shown up that many more things need to be done right in order to educate the next generation, if we are really sincere that we want to raise globally competitive children.
Interestingly, the alma mater of Professor Adesanmi, the University of Ilorin, was one of the first Nigerian universities to introduce electronic examinations in 2013 under the administration of Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali. The University organized an induction programme for the University’s Computer Based Test (CBT) Management Board. Thereafter the University introduced Computer Based Test for Post-Unified Tertiary Marticulation Examinations (Post-UTME) and eventually, it became a way of testing the knowledge acquired by the students across all levels. Paradoxically, the aforementioned situation would definitely be a challenge for a student raised in rural Nigeria who has never encountered the computer. These are some of the issues addressed by e-learning companies such as Roducate and uLessons.
Before our new realities orchestrated by COVID-19, there are only few set of children who have access to digital life. They attend the very expensive schools spread across selected cities in the country. They are introduced to various applications and other ICT tools that are used overseas by their contemporaries. The knowledge acquired by these children assist them in their thought process and in fact, boosts their self-confidence. By the time they are completing their secondary school education, they are adept at using the computer with great ability to type with accuracy and they are prepared for admission into foreign universities.
Interestingly, this new order must be embraced by all, it has become today’s realities and it has fast-tracked learning across all ages. However, we must be willing to scale these hurdles namely, the cost of procuring devices; the price of data; intermittent interruption of electricity supply; the concentration of students; measuring the effectiveness of the knowledge acquired amongst other flimsy excuses. With just a little addition, we all have what is required for e-learning to keep being relevant.
In the last few weeks that children have been engaged via e-learning, there are many traits that parents have seen. Some children are easily distracted, some have nonchalant attitudes, some abhor it, while some have embraced it wholeheartedly. However, we do not need to stop this laudable introduction because children and their parents have an opportunity to bond much more. The assurance is that it can only get better as every pupil or student will get used to it over time. We have a lot to benefit if both the parents and children wholeheartedly embrace it.
The benefit that the third world would gain from this experience will be phenomenal. Teachers have been training to embrace e-teaching while the students are e-learning. Teachers now know that they do not have to be in the four corners of a classroom before they can educate students while students know that they learn through videos and respond to their teachers questions.
The devices that people take around have not been put to optimal use until the outbreak of COVID-19. The set of apps on their devices are gaming apps but now, the students are now on google classrooms and zoom interacting with their teachers and classmates learning and exchanging ideas.
Another beautiful thing that COVID-19 have shown us is that there would be a drastic fall in issues largely in tertiary institutions of learning such as mark-for-sex; marking down of students; cases of missing scripts and transcripts amongst others. All the activities are stored up in the cloud for reference at any time. Also, the limitation of the lives of students to the classroom would be reduced.
We would also be achieving a feat if we gradually reduce our dependence on papers as renowned Environmentalist, Rev Nnimmo Bassey, will rejoice over the number of trees that will not be lumbered from the forest. Equally, parents would no more wait till the end of the day before having an update about their children anymore through Communication Book; schools can now have the children’s daily report shared via all these e-platforms. We would also be reducing the contact of these children to the various toxic substances available on the streets.
I will want to close with the narration of Kemi Lawal on facebook about an examination that she wrote recently from the confines of her home, on 27th May 2020. She had a 3-hour exam and she was invigilated via zoom. She showed the proctor a 360-view of her son’s room where she chose to write the examination. She was warned not to open another tab on the laptop else she would be automatically logged out. No phones, no wristwatches, calculators etc allowed. Just a plain sheet of paper and pencil which she had to show the back and front view!
Ultimately, we have been challenged by COVID-19, we can see the brighter side of the pandemic from the swift development of the educational sector if we learn, unlearn, relearn and e-learn. We do not have any excuse to jettison this new wave of learning that has been thrusted upon us. We are on the right path to raising a new generation of children as we look into the rising prospect of Africa.